Monday 17 November 2008

It's A Beautiful Day "Marrying Maidens" (1969) (News, Views and Music 12)

An Old Favourite I’m Currently Grooving To: “This whole world has got to change, it just can’t stay the way it’s been, and all the ways of war won’t change it in the end…” “Marrying Maidens” (It’s A Beautiful Day, 1972). The second album from the now largely forgotten Californian band is one of the most varied sets of the 1970s and one of the group’s more focussed records, despite the destructive events going on behind the scenes. Keyboardist Linda DeFlamme, who co-wrote every single track on first LP ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’, is already missing by the time of this second album, although husband David DeFlamme is still very much around and about the only recogniseable voice you’ll hear on this one (second vocalist Patti Santos, whose soaring vocals did so much to make the first album a success, is still there as well but doesn’t get as much to do on this second record). Yet for all of its flaws and its lack of a single song as mesmerising as ‘White Bird’ (the band’s best known track and a strong candidate for Beautiful Day’s greatest moment as a band), I still prefer this second LP to the first. Every single track seems to take you somewhere different this time around and although that’s not always a good thing on records, It’s A Beautiful Day naturally have such a wide repertoire that the contrast works well. Here, in just 35 or so minutes, you get a mix of long electric eccentric workouts that last for hours, subtle acoustic ballads that last for mere seconds, fiery instrumentals, lyrical country-ballads, spoken tone poems and even a country hoe-down and a hint of big band-esque crooning.  

As with the first LP, though, it’s the quieter, more melodic songs that catch the ear more than the frenetic and often overly noisy epics. There’s lots of classic tight harmony on this record, unusual considering that most members of this second line-up have never worked together before and the band even do a fair impression of chanting Tibetan monks on the mood piece ‘Waiting For The Song’. David DeFlamme’s gravely but still velvety voice also seems to have come into its own on this LP with the occasional harshness of the first LP toned down – his range seems to have extended by at least half an octave too. Overall, ‘Maidens’ is an interesting work – it’s undoubtedly a sprawling album, one that doesn’t quite know what direction it wants to head in, but musical cul-de-sacs have rarely been as enjoyable as this one. Alas there’s just one more studio album to go before it’s a beautiful day call it a day (briefly anyway – they reformed in 1978 as ‘it was a beautiful day’!) but with the group knocking at so many different musical doors and being pulled in so many different directions it’s no surprise they couldn’t keep the band going for long. Most loved moments: it’s a split decision between the gorgeous laid-back Eagles-ish country rock of ‘Soapstone Mountain’ and ‘Good Loving’, the most uncharacteristic track on the album, where the band rock out and bounce off each other to great effect (most of the songs here have a Moody Blues/ Pink Floyd-esque studio sheen). Most reviled moment: most fans seem to hate the mostly spoken word-piece ‘Galileo’ the most, but actually it’s not that bad at all – certainly compared to Cat Stevens/ Yusuf Islam’s occasional mistakes in the same vein. No the worst thing is the instrumental ‘Country Hoe-down’ – wrong band, wrong style, wrong instruments, it’s all just wrong wrong wrong. Overall rating: ♫♫♫♫♫♫♫ (7/10).   

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